By Kimmie Collins
Jul 28, 2020
When I was about eighteen months old, my mom dressed me in a sassy, Indiana State University cheerleading outfit and propped me on her hip to watch my first ISU homecoming parade. In later years, I would perform in the parade with my dance studio, twirling batons as I marched down Wabash Avenue. At the end of every May, my friends and I gleefully chased each other with cans of glitter outside Tirey Hall before our recital.
A few years later, after I got my driver’s license, my boyfriend and I strolled around campus playing Pokémon Go. I learned the name of the statue outside the science building – Prometheus – from our adventures, and we danced on the sidewalk in front of the Student Recreation Center.
Growing up, Indiana State was literally always a part of my life. From a young age, I’d proudly wear Sycamore Sam T-shirts to school. I stuck an Indiana State University decal to my bedroom window. For a while, I automatically associated “college” with Indiana State. Now, Sycamore spirit has only ingrained itself deeper in me. I’m proud to be a fourth-generation Sycamore, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
As a high school student, I was not confident that Indiana State was the place for me. I dragged my parents on nineteen campus visits, including multiple at the same school, and I eventually applied to eleven different universities. After a grueling winter of scholarship applications, essays, and letters of recommendation, I made my final decision to come to Indiana State in mid-March, after many of my friends had changed their Instagram bios to include their chosen colleges. It wasn’t a light decision, but by that time, it was an easy choice. One by one, I had gradually ruled out other schools. Some felt too big, while others felt so small they were cramped. Conversations with one institution’s faculty felt too stiff; another university’s residence halls reminded me of a dungeon. At every school I visited, though, I noticed a common theme: Indiana State was always my standard for comparison. Each school proudly boasted their best features, yet every time they always seemed to fall short of the equivalent programs in my backyard.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about my hometown university, but I didn’t realize how much I had to learn until I examined Indiana State against other schools. I never realized the painstaking care the Honors College poured into their events and courses, or that the entire campus rallies around the chicken tenders from George’s in the Commons, or how magnificently the trees on the quad glow in the autumn sun. I had no concept that Indiana State’s 12,000-person student body was the perfect size to seize any number of opportunities while offering meaningful, tight-knit relationships with my instructors and my peers. I certainly didn’t realize how genuinely beautiful our campus is. My high school history teacher loved local trivia, so I knew the histories of some of the buildings, but I had never stopped to appreciate the stunning grace of the Magna Carta room in Federal Hall or University Hall’s airy atrium.
People always told me that going to college in my hometown “wouldn’t give me the full experience” and “wouldn’t be an adventure”, but I couldn’t disagree more. Stepping on campus is like entering a whole new universe. Though it is a short walk from bustling downtown Terre Haute, campus is serene, brimming with a different kind of energy. Campus almost feels as if it exists in its own bubble, tucked away from the traffic and hubbub less than a mile away. I do live on campus, although I return home frequently, even sometimes throughout the week. In both locations, I feel as though I am part of some secret, special club. On campus, many of my friends are unfamiliar with Terre Haute, so they turn to me for advice about weekend excursions, the best places to eat, or even just the quickest way to get to Walmart. When I’m at home or around town, I’m always eager to share the exciting exploits of students, from groundbreaking research to incredible artistic endeavors. I love being a link between the town that made me who I am and the university that is shaping me into who I will be.
I didn’t move away for college. I didn’t have to save my residence hall on Google Maps the week before move-in; it was one of the first paths I drove after I got my license. Choosing a university in my hometown may not be “traditional,” but I wholeheartedly believe it only enhanced my collegiate experience. Growing up here, I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact the university has on the community and the support the community gives the university. Indiana State University has been a part of my life since even before my first homecoming parade, but every day as a Sycamore makes me fall in love with the university a little more.